Posted by: Victor | April 24, 2007

Matthew 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

Sure seems like Jesus is teaching here that if someone does evil to you, if you are his follower, you shouldn’t do it back. When someone talks bad about your momma, you shouldn’t say something about their momma.  When someone cuts you off in traffic, you shouldn’t speed up, tailgate and honk your horn.  Most Christians understand that they should not respond with evil in these situations – although at times it is difficult.

But what about if someone steals from you?  What about if someone threatens you?  What if someone attacks you physically?  What if one nation drops a bomb on another nation?  How do those who follow this command respond then?  To me, it doesn’t seem that there are limitations to obedience to Christ on this or any issue.  What if someone does something really bad to you, should you still forgive them 70×7?  What if you have preached the gospel earlier in the day when another perfect opportunity arises?  These might seem silly, but I highlight them to illustrate that we should always be ready and willing to obey the words of the one we have confessed as our Lord.

Bottom line, if someone does evil to you – we cannot respond with evil.  If we do, we are no different from the one who began the evil to begin with.

I have heard arguments that Jesus is not talking about physical violence when he says “if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer up the left also” but rather that was a way of being insulted – do we have any evidence of this being true?  Or is that just an attempt at a way out of the tense situations that might arise for those who follow Christ?

I have also heard that motive plays a role in this – if someone attacks you to get your wallet, and you beat them up to stop them, you haven’t done evil because you weren’t malicious – hmm…seems like the same exact action though.  What do you think?

Clearly we resist evil by fighting against sin in our own life and we are told to “resist the devil and he will flee.”  But Jesus says we cannot resist evil with evil – because as I have said above, we become just like the evil that is being done to us.  Or perhaps as the verse says, we are not to resist evil people – because our true warfare is spiritual and that is why we do resist the devil….Thoughts?


  1. To me this section deals with justice. In this case getting the 1st century apocalyptic worldview of palestinian judaism right is essential. They believed that there were two groups of people: the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one. They believed that justice was not served in this age because the evil one was in reigning. They believed that one day God would raise up (send) his messiah (the son of man) in order to effect a hostile regime change. Satan would be dethroned and the Messiah would be enthroned as the god of the age. All who are aligned with Satan, all through whom Satan has worked to afflict the righteous, all who are not the sons of the kingdom will be dealt with at the coming of this cosmic warrior. In fact, the reversal of affairs would be so extreme that the afflicted, crushed, downtrodden, abused, powerless, righteous will be catapulted to leadership positions while the oppressors, proud, unjust, wicked will be crushed. If one believes that through Jesus, the world will be made right someday, and that justice is as out of place in this age as injustice is in the messianic age, then one would not expect to find vindication now.

    I believe that the three examples given really come down to justice. The “eye for an eye” quotation speaks of how the judges of Israel were to administer justice. If someone had poked out another’s eye, then in the right course for the judge would be to punish the eye poker with a poked eye. Jesus quotes this in order to form his basis for teaching a New Covenant principle. He contrasts his new command with this ancient “just” practice by telling his followers to not resist, to turn the cheek, to give up their coats, to go the extra mile. To be slapped on the cheek would (at least) be a very high insult. To be sued for a shirt is not wrong, but the Torah specifically forbade the taking of a person’s coat because a poor man used his coat as a covering while he slept (Ex 22.26-27). To be compelled by a Roman soldier to carry his military gear would be repulsive to a Jew who felt that God had given him the land. What right does this Gentile have to even show his face, much less make me carry his pack? Yes, these are three examples of horrendous injustice. Yet, what is the lesson to be learned in Jesus injunction to “not resist an evil person”

    If one adopts the worldview of Jesus and his followers that justice waits until the kingdom comes (Mat 25.31-33) then it would make sense that sons of the kingdom need not avenge themselves now. I don’t think Jesus is here specifically speaking about violence. However, he is talking about justice and undeserved violence is the sharpest kind of injustice. I think the principle holds, “do not resist an evil person.”

    In addition, these are personal ethics not how a country is to be run. Rom 13 makes clear that to the degree that the governments of this age punish evil by wielding the sword, they are serving God’s purpose. We cannot impose Christianity on a national government because at their fundamental natures (and in practice) the two are incompatible. As followers of the Messiah, we dare not judge the governments of this age for using the sword to bring about justice (with a lower-case “j”). Even so, we wait for the time when the Government brings to pass through the eschatalogical sword (Rev 19.11-21) the ultimate Justice.

  2. Great points Sean. I think you are right that it is focusing on justice – but I think my points above can be included in this – we seek justice now by taking matters into our own hand by returning evil when evil is done to us. So much of this discussion is dependent on the Kingdom Hope and Gospel being clear in our minds.

    Justice is coming. Peace is coming. Righteousness is coming. Judgment is coming. And because I am convinced of these things I allow vengence, justice and judgment to be executed by YHWH and His Messiah.

    You are right that we cannot impose these commands on a nation of this world and I meant to address that in my original post and forgot. I think that my reasoning for raising the question about what to do when bombed by another nation was to raise the question in the minds of the MANY “christians” in America and I’m sure elsewhere who support such actions by their nations. Indeed God has ordained the powers of the nations at times to do His work but to rally around the fact that other people (including Christians) are being hurt and killed isn’t the best idea for followers of Christ.

  3. So, the next question is – when are we making the Apocalypticism blog?

  4. This is an interesting, related article:

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